Journey to Paradise : Laucala Island, Fiji
For the September issue of TK (Tasting Kitchen) magazine I found myself struggling to survive on the private resort island of Laucala located within the nation of Fiji. The island is one of those exclusive resorts created for richest of the rich which I was fortunate enough to have been invited there to photograph this lovely paradise for Tasting Kitchen (TK) magazine. It’s a beautiful island tucked away in the South Pacific and covered by coconut trees. Guests arrive by small plane and then shuttled off to their own private villa on their own private beach. It would be a cliche to call the place Paradise but that’s pretty much what it is.
My mission while on the island was to create a food related visual narrative that brought together both the island and wonderful dishes created by the resort’s executive chef, Anthony Healy.
The image above was created as a potential cover for TK magazine and is pretty much straight out of the camera. My approach in nearly every situation is to first bring out the beauty of the dish that the chef has created, second is to use elements from within or around the venue to connect this dish to the location and third – minimize the use of Photoshop in the post production process.
For the cover illustration I worked with the resort’s Executive Chef, Anthony Healy, who is wonderfully creative both in terms flavors as well as with presentation. When I saw the beautiful little things he was creating I knew that I wanted to do something other than shoot on a white dish. He allowed me into his kitchen where I searched through his supply of dishes and found a glass dish which looked almost like a sheet of ice. Next came the challenge of how to get light behind the dish. A quick recon of the restaurant, known as The Plantation House, and I discovered a large tubular shaped glass vase which was being used to display seashells. I dumped out the contents of the vase and placed it on the floor.
As luck would have it the lights I was traveling with were small, yet fairly powerful, battery powered strobes made by Godox. The size of the opening the vase was just large enough to allow me to place strobe, with a small reflector, in the bottom of the vase. I wrapped a piece of blue gel over the reflector and had it pointing straight towards the dish. I did a test shot so Chef Healy could see how the light was affecting the plate and he set to work composing his dish. I lit the food from above with another Godox strobe mounted with an Chimera Extra-Small softbox.
For each of Chef Healy’s other creations I wanted to try and connect the island to his food. In the next shot I drove around the island looking for rock which he could use as his plate. My mode of transportation was an electric golf cart which worked perfectly for this project. I could leave my lights setup and just place them in the back of the cart and transport to wherever I needed to shoot. After locating what I thought could be suitable rock and then searched for a good location to place it. Choosing an area in the densely forested area of the island I then went and fetched the willing chef. He brought out a fresh crayfish along with some tasty he concocted with free range chicken, grown on the island, and a mousse made from the crayfish. The lighting for this image is not complicated. Just a small softbox was all that was used.
For Chef Healy’s take on the classic Fijian kokoda I found a piece of drift wood nearby the restaurant and placed it in the garden. I then gathered the flowers that had fallen from the nearby tree and placed them in the background.
Chef Healy’s daily menu is usually dictated by which ingredients are available to him on any given day. The island is supplied by regular shipments of goods from the main island of Fiji but his primary ingredients come from either the sea or the islands farm where cattle, pigs and goats are raised. Seafood is delivered directly to the island by area fishermen.
The island’s farm also produces a large quantity of fruits, vegetables and herbs which Chef Healy does not hesitate to take advantage.
In addition to the farmed animals, fruits and vegetables the island has a large population of land crabs which often end up in Chef Healy’s dishes.